Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2002-03 Plymouth Whalers Gary Klapkowski Jersey

July by the Numbers crosses to the other side of Michigan for jersey #27.

The Detroit Compuware Ambassadors were formed as an expansion team in the Ontario Hockey League for the 1990-91 season and would finish dead last with just 11 wins. After one more season they were renamed the Detroit Junior Red Wings and their fortunes improved from 27 wins to 37 to 42 and then 44 as the club won two division titles as well as the 1995 OHL playoffs to advance to their first Memorial Cup, making it all the way to the championship final and setting attendance records during the NHL lockout of 1995 in the process.

Club owner Peter Karmanos had been unsuccessful in his attempt to buy the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and instead purchased the Hartford Whalers in 1994, which led to the OHL club being renamed the Detroit Whalers. As a result of friction between the owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Karmanos following the failed deal to purchase the Detroit Red Wings, the Whalers moved out of Joe Louis Arena and up to the Palace of Auburn Hills for 1995-96. For the following season, Karmanos built his team a new home in Plymouth Township in time for the 1996-97 season.

For the 1997-98 season, the team was once again renamed, this time to the Plymouth Whalers. The Whalers then rose to new heights beginning with the 19998-99 season when they finished first overall in the OHL with 108 points and repeated the feat in 1999-00 with a league best 95 points. A second overall finish in 2000-01 gave the Whalers their third consecutive division title and they returned to the top of the heap once again in 2001-02 with 92 points. The Whalers kept their foot on the gas for their record tying fifth consecutive division title in 2002-03 with a 97 point season, their fifth over 90 points.

After winning another division title in a decidedly weak West Division in 2005-06 with just 75 points, the Whalers reloaded for the 2006-07 season. Led by Evan Brophey's 107 points and the goaltending duo of Michal Neuvirth (26 wins) and Jeremy Smith (23), the Whalers once again won the West Division with 103 points, one back of the league leading London Knights.

In the OHL playoffs, London and Plymouth advanced to the Western Conference Finals as expected and Plymouth dominated with a 4 games to 1 win before downing the Sudbury Wolves 4-2 to win the Robertson Cup and claim their place in the Memorial Cup for the second time in franchise history where they placed third.

Several Whalers have been drafted high in the NHL Entry Draft, with Bryan Berard taken first overall in 1995 when the club was known as the Jr. Red Wings leading the list.

Berard Whalers
Bryan Berard

David Legwand (1998) and Tyler Seguin (2010) were both selected second overall and Stephen Weiss at fourth overall in 2001 completing the list of top four picks from the Whalers. Seguin became the first Whaler to lead the OHL in scoring with his 106 points in 2009-10, which which was equalled by Taylor Hall of the rival Windsor Spitfires for the top spot.

Seguin Whalers
Tyler Seguin

Other notable franchise alumni include Fred Brathwaite, Eric Cairns, Paul Mara, James Neal, Justin Williams and James Wisniewski, while Pat Peake is the only player in franchise history to have his number retired by the team.

Today's featured jersey is a 2002-03 Plymouth Whalers Gary Klapkowski jersey from the Whalers record season during which they won their fifth consecutive division title.

Being a part of the Hartford Whalers family, since they share the same owner, the Plymouth Whalers used the Hartford Whalers jersey template years after Hartford relocated to North Carolina to become the Hurricanes.

Plymouth Whalers 02-03 jersey
Plymouth Whalers 02-03 jersey

Today's video feature is highlights from the Plymouth Whalers taking on their rivals the Windsor Spitfires in a exciting OHL contest featuring lots of goals and fists. The two club's rinks are located just 30 miles apart and Windsor, Ontario is actually the only Canadian city located directly south of an American city.

Here is a profile on the Whalers Tyler Seguin, the second pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

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